HBOS chief 'has no wish to be one of Big Four'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

James Crosby, the chief executive of HBOS, said he had no ambitions of transforming his company into one of the UK's "Big Four" banks, dismissing the quartet of his biggest UK rivals as a club that he does not want HBOS to be part of.

James Crosby, the chief executive of HBOS, said he had no ambitions of transforming his company into one of the UK's "Big Four" banks, dismissing the quartet of his biggest UK rivals as a club that he does not want HBOS to be part of.

Announcing a record year of results, Mr Crosby said yesterday that the strategy of HBOS, which owns Halifax and the Bank of Scotland, was fundamentally different to his biggest rivals, putting a much greater emphasis on UK growth and providing value for money for its customers.

"We don't really want to be one of the Big Four - it doesn't really feel like a club we want to be a member of," he said. "The difference between us and the Big Four is what we're trying to do with our business. I think we're striking ... a very different balance between shareholder and customer interests in our business."

Unveiling annual pre-tax profits of £4.59bn, up 23 per cent on the previous year and ahead of market expectations, Mr Crosby remained optimistic about prospects for the year ahead, insisting that the bank's mortgage business would not be too damaged by a slowdown in the housing market.

Increasing the final dividend by 8 per cent to 22.15p, he said future dividend growth would now rise to come in line broadly with earnings growth. Although he would not rule out making an acquisition, either in the UK or abroad, Mr Crosby insisted that the company's core focus was now on organic growth in its UK, Irish and Australian businesses.

After deciding not to bid for Abbey National last year, after many months of deliberation, the group agreed to launch a £750m buy-back, which is now under way.

Like Abbey, Mr Crosby said Halifax would be embarking on a rebranding exercise over the coming weeks, posting the Bank of Scotland logo alongside Halifax at their 700 English and Welsh branches. A reverse programme is already under way in Scotland.

Responding to recent attacks on the UK banks' large profits, Mr Crosby said: "Profits is in no sense a dirty word. We have the right to earn good profits for our shareholders, and a responsibility that comes with that to provide a good deal for our customers."

Contrary to his Big Four rivals, Mr Crosby said he supported recent suggestions by Don Cruickshank, the former head of the London Stock Exchange, for a review of UK banking regulations.

Revealing a sharp increase in the number of mortgage endowment mis-selling complaints, the company said it would be reserving £130m for potential compensation claims.

Comments